How To Set Up A Canister Filter For Aquariums? [Steps to Follow]

How To Set Up A Canister Filter For Aquariums? [Steps to Follow]


Many hobbyists in the United States love to have various types of sea creatures as their pets. If you are among those hobbyists then you will surely require a heavy filtration system to provide your pet a fresh and healthy natural environment.

In this case, the Canister filter would be a great choice for you. The next question that arises here is how to set up a canister filter for aquarium. Well, it is not difficult as some people think it is.

But it can be thought-provoking for you if you are a beginner and don’t have an idea of how it will work and how to install this in the aquarium. If this is the matter then you don’t need to worry because you are in the right place.

“Your Aquarium Guide” is offering you a comprehensive guide with all the essential information needed to set up a canister filter in the fish tank. All you need to do is to follow some basic steps and instructions. Before we start the main discussion, let’s see what a canister filter is and how it works.

Canister filters are made for large aquariums with a lot of sea stuff in it. It is a heavy-duty filter. It is set up externally which means it works from outside of your fish home.

These filters use different types of filtration media to clean the water. These filtration media consist of chemical, biological and mechanical media. Each filtration media has a role. These filter media filter out particles, dissolved elements, and harmful bacteria from the fish tank.


The functioning of the canister filter is pretty simple. A box(canister) contains filter media trays in which filter media are fixed. The number of trays varies with manufacturing companies.

Some canister filters come with two trays. Others come with three, even four trays. Each tray contains different filtration media. You can also use the combination of filter media in the extra trays.

The Canister filter is connected to the aquarium through an inlet hose and a valve. The water moves from the fish tank to the filter through this hose. A pump is used to move water from the aquarium to the filter.

The water passes through each filter media and gets filtered step by step. After this, the filtered water is pumped back into the aquarium. This is the simple working procedure of the whole canister filter.

Components Of Canister Filter

Components Of Canister Filter

Like every other machine, the canister filter consists of different parts or components that work together to do the whole work accurately. Each part has its importance so you must make sure that all parts are there in the box.


Hoses are the bendable tubes that are used to connect the aquarium with the canister. These hoses connect the aquarium with a canister filter.

Water travels via these hoses from the aquarium to the filter and similarly returns back to the water tank after filtration.

Valves and knots

Valves are used to regulate the flow of water from the tank to the filter. Knots are utilized to make all the connections tight so that there is no leakage of water in the whole canister filter setup.


It is the main box in which all the filtration processes take place. It contains the water pump and filtration media trays in it.

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Filter Media Trays

These trays contain the filter media in it. the number of trays in the canister filter varies from the brand you are using. It may contain two, sometimes three, or even four trays.

If you live in the United States, the greater possibility is that your filter contains three or four filter media trays.

Intake and Outthrow Accessories

To transfer water from the aquarium and to fill up the filtered water back in the aquarium you should have the inlet and out throw accessories.

It may consist of some hard tubes and knots. This intake and outthrow tubes may hang at the side of the aquarium or fix on the wall with suction cups.

Filtration Media

Filtration media is a material that is used to clean the water. Three types of filtration media are used in canister filters.

1) Mechanical Filter Media: The advantage of this media is that they remove solid particles in the water.

2) Biological Filter Media: The advantage of this media is that they remove harmful bacteria.

3) Chemical Filter Media: The advantage of this media is that they remove dissolved elements in the water.

How To Set Up A Canister Filter?

How To Set Up A Canister Filter

To set up the canister filter in the aquarium, just follow the simple procedure.

Unbox The Canister Filter

You might be thinking that how can unboxing be a part of the setup procedure. Well, it may not seem like a setup procedure but it is a significant one.

It is a pre-set-up procedure. Unbox the setup and check whether all the mentioned accessories are there in the box. Check if anything is missing or broken. It is necessary because broken parts can result in the malfunctioning of the filter.

Clean The Accessories

Rinse all the equipment to eliminate any kind of dirt in the filter. It is a good practice to clean everything before setting them up in the aquarium. you can use slightly warm or normal water to rinse the accessories.

Do not use any chemical solution because they can break the parts of the filter. You can also wash the filter media except for biological filter media. Washing will remove the necessary element from it.

Fill Media Trays

The next step is to make ready your canister filter. Detach the pump from the canister by losing the clump. Insert media filters in the tray.

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How To Set Up A Canister Filter Media?

How To Set Up A Canister Filter Media

Beginning with the mechanical filter media which are small pieces of coarse foam or sponges. The coarse foam comes in three different qualities. Simple, medium, and fine coarse foam.

You can use small layers of all these types in the tray for the better result. This step is optional for you. You can simply use the coarse foam provided in the accessories.

In the next tray, add biological media and fill it properly. You may have bio balls as this filter media with the accessories of the canister filter. You can also use bio home filter media.

The third tray is stuffed with chemical filter media. Activated carbon is used as chemical filter media in this tray. Most of the setups have this filter media.

Most of the canister filters have four trays. In this case, you can use a mixture of biological and chemical media in it.

Fit The Inlet And Outthrow Assembly

Assemble all the inlet tubes and outthrow tubes with the help of an instruction book. Connect the one end of the hose with the lid of the filter intake valve and another end with the inlet tube.

Similarly, connect one end of the second hose with the outthrow tube and the other end with the canister filter valve. Tight all the knots. Connect the intake and outthrow tube in the aquarium with the help of suction cups provided with canister filter accessories.

Check the working

Now connect the power supply and press the button on the top canister two to three times to initiate the working. Almost all the filters need this to start them. Check if it is working properly.


canister filter setup

  • For maintaining the working of your canister filter. Clean it properly after 2 to 3 months.
  • Do not wash biological media because this may remove all the required elements from it.
  • Always fit the setup at the lower level. This will assist the flow of water from the tank to the filter.
  • Check all the regulators and knots to prevent any leakage.
  • The flexible tubes should not be folded or pressed so that the water moves freely from it.
  • Maintain a considerable difference between the bottom surface of the aquarium and tubes of the filter.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Frequently Asked Questions - how to set up a canister filter media

1) Are saltwater canister filters and freshwater canister filters the same?

The simple answer is Yes, you can use the same canister filter for both types of aquariums.

2) Which is the best fish tank canister filter?

You can use any brand with a trustworthy market name and good quality. However, some recommendations are given below.


conclusion - aquarium canister filter setup

The canister filter is a heavy-duty system. However, adding it in the aquarium can be testing for anyone especially if you are a beginner.

Canister filters can be set up without difficulty in the fish tank by following the steps and tips provided by the experts of “Your Aquarium Guide”.

We have tried to discuss every single aspect associated with the canister filter. If you still have any queries, feel free to query in the comment segment.

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